Every day this week we are counting down to the 25th anniversary of Stargate (1994), with “Finding Fandom.” In this second installment, Jacqueline Purse talks with fans about the Stargate characters and relationships they love so much.
This week’s series is shining a spotlight on the Stargate fan base. It is a fan base that is still present, active, and actively growing – more than two decades after the TV show first hit our screens. Whilst I’ve enjoyed my own reminiscing, it has also provided an opportunity to discuss the franchise with other fans and hear their thoughts. (More from them in a moment.)
I was first introduced to Stargate over 20 years ago. As a kid growing up in the 90s, my Saturday evenings in front of the television consisted of repeats of Baywatch, Knight Rider, and MacGyver. Out of the three, MacGyver was my favorite. I loved how the hero always managed to thwart the bad guys, but never used a gun to do it; instead he had these creative (although not quite scientifically accurate) plans to achieve his goal. He used his mind which, in turn, stirred my imagination and led me to create my own series of swashbuckling adventures in the back yard.
It was fun, and brought me joy. So when my dad heard about a new sci-fi show starring “MacGyver” himself, I was excited.
That’s right — Richard Dean Anderson was one of the main reasons I first tuned in to Stargate SG-1. But the decision to cast him in the lead role was also one of the reasons bookgirl33 decided to give the series a go. “I was – and still am – a fan of MacGyver,” she admits. “When I saw there was a new series with RDA, I watched the pilot and liked it.”
“I was a big MacGyver fan in elementary school, so the RDA connection helped [me decide to watch],” added MertMuftigul, who has been a fan of Stargate since 2001.
Once I had started watching a few episodes in particular caught my attention — such as “Singularity,”, “1969,” and “Crystal Skull.” But the first full episode I saw that categorically drew me in and made me say, “Yes! This is my show!” was “Window of Opportunity.” There was just something about the opening scene that drew me in. I was interested in how these four characters – despite being vastly different in their skills and personalities – acted around, and worked with, each other in harmony.
There was a camaraderie – a chemistry – that naturally came across on screen, and I was transfixed. I suddenly wanted to know everything I could about this team – and I wasn’t the only one.
It seems we are very character-driven when it comes to our viewing. Even if a show’s premise is a little shaky, it is often the characters who will make or break our decision to keep watching. We need characters we can relate to, fall in love with, or love to hate. And right from the beginning I felt the casting for Stargate was perfect.
Interestingly, when I went out to talk to other fans, virtually every response I received mentioned “team dynamics” as one of the series’ outstanding elements.
“I loved the bond everyone had in the show,” MamaNoxErika said. “Even some of the baddies felt like they belonged.”
This was an opinion shared by AngieVonAsgard, who said: “I love the team feeling and sense of family — how different each member of the team is, yet how beautifully they all work together as people.”
If we start with SG-1, the friendships here are complex and complementary. You have Jack O’Neill and Teal’c, both of whom are warriors and soldiers with a deep-rooted desire to try to do what is fundamentally right and to protect their people. This bond started in the pilot episode when Teal’c risked everything because he believed Jack’s word — that he could save those innocent people on Chulak.
Then there’s Samantha Carter and Daniel Jackson, astrophysicist and archaeologist, respectively. Both are experts in their own fields and they developed a close friendship, almost reflective of the bond between siblings.
Then, there is Daniel’s friendship with Jack. The two men are very different: Daniel likes to talk and negotiate, while Jack is a man of action. But there is a respect between them that runs deeper, in part, because Daniel is the only one who has known O’Neill from the beginning of the journey. He knows why Jack accepted that first mission; why he eventually decided not to follow his orders; and why he decided to start living his life again.
Each character brings something different to the team and, more importantly, to each other. They pick up on the others’ sense of duty, their responsibility to those around them, and the importance of their safety. For example, O’Neill’s rule that “we don’t leave our people behind” becomes Carter’s mantra when Jack himself is lost in Season Three’s “A Hundred Days” (and again in Season Six’s “Paradise Lost”). It’s strong moral principles like these that govern their behaviors and actions.
These positive character traits, which see the team willingly risk their lives and make personal sacrifices for each other, is something that strikes a chord and leaves a lasting impression on fans, including MissRainbowPie, who said: “I grew up with this team and they helped shape who I am today. Jack taught me to always have a sense of humor. Sam was one of the first fictional female role models I ever had, and taught me that I could achieve anything if I put my mind to it. Daniel taught me to see things from others’ perspectives. And Teal’c taught me the importance of fighting for my rights.”
Over the years, these characters have been through life-and-death situations, witnessed each other at their worst and most vulnerable, and proudly celebrated their achievements. There is respect and love woven throughout their friendships. But, like any group of friends, there are also those moments of testing and discord. It makes them relatable to the viewer and those bonds are heartfelt (such as the events surrounding Season Five’s “Revelations,” when the team is divided over how to deal with the loss of Daniel). They each have their strengths and weaknesses; we see their flaws and the mistakes they make, but we also see the support and loyalty they have towards one another in the good times and the bad.
And we recognize, no matter what happens, how important those friendships are. They aren’t portrayed as perfect people — and this open, honest approach is something which resonates with fans.
“There are no superheroes with superpowers,” as dana_cz put it. “Just ordinary, flawed people put in extraordinary circumstances.”
One of those characters thrown into extraordinary circumstances was Samantha Carter. Delving deeper into the topic of team dynamics, there is a particular love for her character that is shared by the fans I spoke to.
“I was in my early 20s when I started watching SG-1,” said BeaJmut537, “and Samantha Carter was just as much of a female role model to me as Dana Scully in The X-Files. Both were strong, independent females who never hesitated to crawl into the darkest places or battle the enemy on the front lines.”
Others inspired by Sam include carterisawesome, who said: “Carter’s character is honestly so refreshing. For a 90s show, I was prepared to see her very sexualized and very one-dimensional. But what Amanda Tapping managed to do with the character is the reason why I love the show so much. Carter is a true role model.”
“Amanda did an awesome job portraying Sam as a strong, smart and independent woman,” CinkaLucifer agreed.
Growing up, Carter was my television role model and hero, too. She was strong, smart, and independent. She was kind and funny and fought tirelessly, but gracefully, against injustice and those who doubted her abilities. She stood up for what she believed in – including herself – proving that as a woman in a “man’s world,” she deserved to be there and could do her job well.
I watched the character grow and develop, and (through the talent of Amanda Tapping) smash her way through glass ceilings. She was, and continues to be, a role model for so many. And this kind of inspiration was shared by skittle479, who said: “It was so great seeing a strong woman like Sam be a total and utter nerd, which made me feel like even though I felt like a loser, I didn’t always have to be. Sam [and Janet] inspired me to become a doctor.”
“She was a strong female character who was fantastic at science and a true inspiration to girls that science is not just a ‘man’s world’,” added JACQSTER65.
But, while science played a vital role in Carter’s life, another facet of her character that piqued the interest of some fans was her complicated relationship with Jack O’Neill.
TO SHIP, OR NOT TO SHIP?
Now, I appreciate that not everyone is a “shipper.” But this featured significantly in fans’ responses (75 percent of fans mentioned this particular relationship), and as it did feature periodically in the show it is something we should explore further.
Often viewed as the “power couple” of Stargate SG-1, Sam and Jack developed romantic feelings for each other over the years, with the issue first coming to a head in Season Four’s “Divide and Conquer.” At the time Jack was Sam’s commanding officer, and Air Force regulations didn’t permit them to be together. But by the time Season Eight concluded there were suggestions that the pair had finally decided to move from teammates and friends to something more.
This was never confirmed in canon, although writer-producer Joseph Mallozzi previously has said on his blog that the third SG-1 movie planned to address the issue directly. Perhaps, not surprisingly, that is one of the reasons why some fans are still clamoring for another movie.
As one fan told me: “I’m here for the ‘ship. Call it forbidden romance or a love story, but it’s great and a narrative that’s never fully told.”
“I love the relationship between Sam and Jack,” sg1on happily confessed. And rsundayr added: “I’m a sucker for a forbidden romance – especially Jack and Sam.”
When asked why this relationship in particular stood out, skittle479 said: “Their love is epic and it’s so different from the forbidden love on other shows. I think it’s because they respect each other so much to take a risk or take the plunge while they work together. They were my first ship; I actively shipped them, rather than thinking, ‘Oh, they’re good together’.”
While there were other dalliances for other characters throughout the show’s run, romance itself was never a central plot device on Stargate. And I think in the long-term this helped the integrity of the storytelling (even though I too wanted Sam and Jack to have their “happy ever after”). I liked the way their relationship was handled — the “U.S.T.” that kept shippers hooked and wondering if the pair would finally get their chance.
It’s also a testament to how important this relationship was to the actors, in that both RDA and Amanda wanted to be respectful of the Air Force and ensure that their characters “feeling feelings” for each other would not take away from the main elements of the show. As nice as it would have been for the shippers to receive confirmation, the chemistry between Sam and Jack worked nicely in how it was teased out over many years.
But that particular arc is just one of the many memorable journeys we’ve experienced with the flagship team. Since 1997 these characters have been welcomed into our homes. We’ve laughed at their antics; we’ve cried at their loss; we’ve stepped through the gate and into the unknown with them week after week.
And it’s a journey we’ve all enjoyed and want to continue.
“I just love how you can dive into certain scenes between your favorite characters and, with the emotions flowing back and forth between them, you marvel at how real they make these relationships and how powerful the portrayal often is,” 4thWall_Kat said. “That kind of stuff makes you want to go back to your favorite episodes again and again.”
Character is key when it comes to creating a good show, but so is quality. Next up, we’ll look at the wider themes from Stargate that keep fans tuning in.
All this month GateWorld is celebrating 25 years of Stargate! “Finding Fandom” explores the franchise’s characters, themes, and the family that is Stargate fandom. Post your memories below or use the hashtag #Stargate25 on social media.